CrossFit is one of the biggest workout trends of recent years with millions of followers around the world, and it appears the Duchess of Cambridge is one of them as she's reportedly a firm fan of the sport and incorporates the training principles into her workouts.
Kate Middleton is famously sporty, having tried her hand at everything from rugby, golf, and tennis, to sailing and sprinting while on royal duties. But it's not only in her public life that the royal keeps active, as the Duchess of Cambridge reportedly spends time running in Norfolk with the family dog and working out at the Harbour Club in Chelsea.
This, along with the Louise Parker Method, is supposedly what helps keep the future queen healthy and on the move. What's so special about CrossFit though? Here, we break down the workout's principles, why it works so well for weight loss, and how you can get involved in the sport in the gym or at home.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) made up of multiple functional movements, explains personal trainer and coach Matt Boyles (opens in new tab). "It's a combination of strength training and high-intensity bodyweight moves," he says. "The weight lifting uses what's known as free weights, meaning dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells rather than resistance machines."
The focus is on natural movements that build strength and fitness, and translate to the real world, he says. But CrossFit also has a huge community attached to it, making it the exercise of choice for socializing too.
"Being surrounded by other people who want to be there is really good for workout motivation and accountability and you may be more inclined to keep going," says Boyles, who is also the founder of Fitter Confident You (opens in new tab). "Crossfit gyms are brilliant at fostering community, so you'll find a welcoming atmosphere, people like you, and great coaches who want the best for everyone."
How does CrossFit work?
CrossFit is always run as a group class, which many people find beneficial as it takes the guesswork out of the workout. "All you have to do is get there and the instructor will tell you precisely what you need to do," the fitness coach explains. Classes run in the format of:
- Skill improvement segment
- Strength-based segment
- Workout of the day (WOD)
Crossfit is an official brand and the gyms pay to be affiliated with it, teaching within a specifically mandated framework, explains Boyles. "This means that CrossFit in its truest form is done at one of the many affiliated gyms around the world but if you've experienced a class before then you could incorporate some of the training principles into your own sessions," he says.
Is CrossFit good for weight loss?
Yes, CrossFit is a great exercise to get involved with if you want to lose weight. "While everyone is different, this exercise burns a lot of calories due to its high-intensity approach," says fitness coach Bree-Anna Burick (opens in new tab), meaning it's beneficial for getting into a calorie deficit to lose weight. "It's estimated you can burn up to 15 calories per minute of CrossFit, with a 60-minute session burning 480 calories on average for a 180lb person."
This is because CrossFit revolves around metabolic conditioning, a workout strategy designed to burn calories. "It involves both strength and cardio work," she says. "The goal is to improve athletic performance and aid everyday activities like walking upstairs without getting winded."
There are plenty of benefits to this type of training that have nothing to do with weight loss though, Boyles stresses. "You'll learn things you may not have come across elsewhere which is great for keeping your training interesting and your motivation sky high," he says. "Being set a challenge to master a new move and then achieving it does wonders for your self-esteem and self-belief."
Is CrossFit bad for you?
There is some speculation that CrossFit can do more harm than good, following the publication of a study by Pennsylvania State University (opens in new tab). They found that CrossFit workouts tend to carry more risk than traditional weightlifting because the workouts are intense and some participants "may push themselves beyond their own physical fatigue limit."
Another study by Kennesaw State University (opens in new tab) also found that 30% of CrossFit participants have suffered an injury over the last 12 months, with shoulder, back, knee, elbow, and wrist injuries most common.
Burick and Boyles also suggest that some people might find the sessions a bit full-on mentally as well, especially if they're new to the sport. "I can appreciate that some people may find it a bit full-on," says Boyles. "Classes can be really loud and it could be intimidating to a newcomer, plus the technical language that is sometimes used may seem overly complicated."
But there are also so many benefits to this type of training:
CrossFit offers plenty of variation throughout the workout as it combines elements of LISS cardio like running with strength training and gymnastics. It's something that Burick, who also works with fitness platform BarBend (opens in new tab), reckons the Duchess of Cambridge takes full advantage of. "Kate Middleton is known for her love of fitness, keeping her workouts varied with a range of activities, from yoga to pilates, running, and weight training, so CrossFit is a great choice."
2. Improves your confidence
There's nothing like CrossFit for learning how to be more confident, both Burick and Boyles say. "The workout isn't for everyone due to its high intensity but it can massively help build confidence, as the aim is to become stronger both mentally and physically, rather than dropping pounds," says Burick.
It's also a fun way to increase your physical and mental confidence, Boyles agrees. "You'll soon find new friends and really feel like you're in it together. You'll get fitter, stronger, and more confident and the varied workouts will keep you on your toes. You'll make progress, which you'll notice has a positive ripple effect into other areas of your life," he says.
3. Improve your metabolic rate
CrossFit's effect on our metabolic age is another reason why the Duchess could be such a fan. "Kate has an incredibly toned physique and strength training is known to burn more calories than cardio alone, as it builds muscle, which increases your resting metabolic rate," Burick says, "This allows the Duchess to ditch restrictive diets and focus instead on fueling her body with nutritious foods instead."
4. Manage stress
If you're looking to learn how to recover from burnout or just learn how to deal with stress better more generally, then CrossFit could be for you. "Regular exercise can help to reduce stress and anxiety as it releases a hormone called cortisol," explains Burick. "It also helps us to retain focus and be more present, taking time aside to forget about our every day worries. People like Kate Middleton, who have high-pressured roles, can really benefit from using their exercise session as a time to de-stress."
5. Sleep better
There's no denying that exercise makes us sleep better overall and strength training has a particularly good sleep-inducing effect. "Adding some strength training into your routine during the day can actually help improve your quality of sleep," confirms Burick, pointing to a study by McMaster University (opens in new tab). "Compared to lighter exercise like a leisurely run, strength training tends to create a bigger surge of adenosine, which promotes drowsiness."
How to do CrossFit at home
If you want to give the Duchess of Cambridge's fast-paced workout a go, this is how you can incorporate CrossFit movements into your workout at the gym or home.
"It's a good idea to start adding some key exercises into your weekly workout sessions to get the hang of the foundational movements," suggests Burick. "These are great for beginners who are curious about this royal-approved workout, but aren’t quite ready to dive right in."
Try these functional movements to get started:
- Tuck Jumps
- Tricep dips
- Push ups
- Handstand push ups
- Air squats
- Sit ups
- Running (1 mile)
A digital health journalist with over five years experience writing and editing for UK publications, Grace has covered the world of health and wellbeing extensively for Cosmopolitan, The i Paper and more.
She started her career writing about the complexities of sex and relationships, before combining personal hobbies with professional and writing about fitness. Everything from the best protein powder to sleep technology, the latest health trend to nutrition essentials, Grace has a huge spectrum of interests in the wellness sphere. Having reported on the coronavirus pandemic since the very first swab, she now also counts public health among them.
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